An attempt by Oxford council officials to drop Christmas from the title of the city’s celebrations has been condemned by residents and religious leaders.
Instead of Christmas lights, the historic city will be decorated with a huge mobile of lanterns in the shape of the solar system.
The idea is being promoted by council-funded charity Oxford Inspires, which is responsible for culture in the city.
The charity has made the concession that the two month winter festival would include Christmas carol services.
“We have Diwali at this time of year and Hannukah, so these are represented as well,” a spokesman added.
Councillors have distanced themselves from the decision, arguing that they are not “Christmas killers” and that the move is not intended to downgrade Christmas.
But residents have called for a return to tradition, and the move has been criticised by Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders who argue that Christmas should not be watered down.
Rabbi Eli Bracknell, who teaches at the Jewish Educational Centre in Oxford, said: “It’s important to maintain a traditional British Christmas.
“Anything that waters down traditional culture and Christianity in the UK is not positive for the British identity.”
Reverend James Grote, of the John Bunyan Baptist Church, said: “People are not offended by hearing each other’s faiths.
“Our religious community is diverse and each one should be expressed. You can only do that if you name the faiths represented.”
Sabir Hussain Mirza, chairman of the Muslim Council of Oxford, said: “I’m really upset about this. This is the one occasion which everyone looks forward to in the year. Christians, Muslims and other religions all look forward to Christmas.
“This is going to be a disaster. I’m angry and very, very disappointed.
“Christmas is special and we shouldn’t ignore it. Christian people should be offended and 99 per cent of people will be against this. Christmas is part of being British and we shouldn’t hide it away.”